Andy Wallace set the fastest time of the day on Wednesday, as the American Le Mans Series teams enjoyed an unofficial test session at Road Atlanta in preparation for Saturday's season-ending Petit Le Mans event.

Wallace, driving the #16 Dyson Racing Lola EX257-MG, lapped the 2.54-mile circuit in 1min 12.458secs to head the list of 35 cars participating in the two-hour session. Official practice begins Thursday, with qualifying to be held Friday. Wallace, who will co-drive in the 1000-mile endurance event with James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger - who, earlier this season, became the first drivers in American Le Mans Series history to take an overall win with a car from the LMP 675 class - set his time at the end of the session.

Second fastest overall, and leading the LMP 900 class, was the ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 of JJ Lehto and Johnny Herbert, which set a time of 1min 12.520secs to narrowly miss beating Wallace's leading time. Third-fastest overall and second in LMP 900 was the Panoz LMP01 of JML Team Panoz driven by Olivier Beretta, David Saelens and Max Papis, which lapped at 1min 13.137secs.

LMP 900 points leaders Frank Biela and Marco Werner lost approximately 25 minutes of track time in the session due to damage that their Infineon Team Joest Audi R8 suffered when Biela went off the course. The team had to take the car back to the paddock to effect repairs, but the car was able to return to the track and set a time that was good for fourth fastest overall. Biela and Werner can win the driving title by finishing sixth or better in the LMP 900 class in Saturday's race. With only six entries so far lodged for the class, the German duo need to complete at least 70 per cent of the distance run by the overall winning car to be classified in the points.

The second Dyson entry driven by Chris Dyson, Didier de Radigues and Chad Block was the second fastest car in LMP 675 and good enough for fifth overall. Dyson can win the LMP 675 driving title by finishing the race in a points-scoring position.

Third fastest in the junior prototype class was another Lola EX257, this time the Judd-powered Intersport car of Jon Field, Duncan Dayton and Larry Connor.

Another tight Ferrari versus Corvette battle appears to be looming in the GTS class, where the Prodrive Ferrari 550 Maranello of Jan Magnussen, David Brabham and Anthony Davidson set the fast time of 1min 19.820secs. Close behind, however, was the Chevrolet Corvette C5-R of Oliver Gavin, Kelly Collins and Andy Pilgrim, followed by the other factory Corvette of Ron Fellows, Johnny O'Connell and Frank Freon.

Although Fellows and O'Connell have already clinched the drivers' title for the year, the Prodrive Ferrari team has won the GTS class in three consecutive ALMS races, and Ferrari can still win the class manufacturer's championship, which Chevrolet leads by only eight points.

In the GT class, champion drivers Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen set the fastest time of the session with a lap of 1min 23.826secs in their Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RS. The sister car, driven by Jorg Bergmeister, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, was second, followed by the Risi Competizione Ferrari 360 Modena of Ralf Kelleners and Anthony Lazzaro.

Two separate incidents brought out red flags in the session, and both involved Panoz cars. Gunnar Jeannette tagged the turn seven wall in the second of the JML LMP01 prototypes, while the Hyper Sport Esperante GT entry driven by Joe Foster, Rick Skelton and Brad Nyberg was damaged when it impacted a tyre barrier in turn three.

"I basically got caught out on new cold tyres and spun the car coming out of turn seven," Jeannette explained, "I was really lucky that I didn't get hit by somebody else when I bounced back out onto the track.

"Unfortunately, we missed the session but we will look at the settings from the #10 car and use that as a starting point tomorrow. The damage is nowhere near as bad as I first feared and we will be back out again on Thursday. Hopefully I have got that out of my system now and I just have to put my head down and concentrate on the rest of the weekend. The other car was strong today and are aiming to following their lead."

 

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